- della Porta, Donatella. 2015. Social Movements in Times of Austerity: Bringing Capitalism Back into Protest Analysis. Cambridge: Polity.
- Castells, Manuel. 2015. Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age. Second Edition. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
The first half of this decade has seen a tremendous wave of protest. The universally recognised spark of the Arab Spring was the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi in December 2010. Since then we’ve seen the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, protests turn to civil wars in Syria and Libya, the uprisings of the indignadas of Spain and the Occupiers of Wall Street (and passim), the Umbrella Movement of Hong Kong, a range of new movements in Brazil, Chile and Mexico, and much else besides. If we understand this ‘movement of the streets and the squares’ as a coherent global wave of protest, what exactly does it signify? The two books under review offer interpretations of the most recent wave of protest that may help answer this most central question.
Open access version available at University of Manchester.
Original, definitive version: Gillan, Kevin. 2017. ‘2010+: The Rejuvenation of New Social Movement Theory?’ Organization 24(2):271–74.
Abstract: This article explores a number of key questions that serve to introduce this special issue on the ethics of research on activism. We first set out the limitations of the bureaucratic response to ethical complexities in our field. We then examine two approaches often used to justify research that demands time consuming and potentially risky participation in research by activists. We label these approaches the ethic of immediate reciprocity and the ethic of general reciprocity and question their impacts. We note, in particular, the tendency of ethics of reciprocity to preclude research on ‘ugly movements’ whose politics offends the left and liberal leanings predominant among movement researchers. The two ethics also imply different positionalities for the researcher vis-à-vis their subject movement which we explore, alongside dilemmas thrown up by multiple approaches to knowledge production and by complex issues of researcher and activist identities. The overall move to increasing complexity offered by this paper will, we hope, provide food for thought for others who confront real-world ethical dilemmas in fields marked by contention. We also hope that it will encourage readers to turn next to the wide range of contributions offered in this issue.
Cite: Gillan, Kevin and Jenny Pickerill. 2012. ‘The Difficult and Hopeful Ethics of Research on, and with, Social Movements’. Social Movement Studies 11(2):133–43.
Abstract: This paper examines the relationship between unofficial party blogs and official party sources in the UK using a mixed-method approach. Specifically we combine interview data with content analysis, user surveys and usage data, and finally hyperlink analysis to profile the emergence, popularity, audience and online prominence of four major party blogs since 2005. The core question posed is how far the blogs are challenging parties as the focal point for member activism and offering an alternative public ‘voice’. The findings show blogs occupy an important alternative critical space for party debate, particularly outside elections. They are not mobilizing tools, however, being used by the grassroots largely for information-gathering and discussion purposes.
The authoritative final version is available via SAGE.
The open access version of this paper is available here: Gibson-etal-2013-NMS-AAM
Published in 2012 as Social Movement Studies 11(2). Editors: Kevin Gillan & Jenny Pickerill.
From the editors’ introduction (with Jenny Pickerill):
“This article explores a number of key questions that serve to introduce this special issue on the ethics of research on activism. We first set out the limitations of the bureaucratic response to ethical complexities in our field. We then examine two approaches often used to justify research that demands time consuming and potentially risky participation in research by activists. We label these approaches the ethic of immediate reciprocity and the ethic of general reciprocity and question their impacts. Continue reading Special Issue: The Ethics of Research on Activism
Social movements contain structures of beliefs and values that guide critical action and aid activists’ understandings. These are worthy of interrogation, not least because they contain points of articulation with ideational formations found in both mainstream politics and academia. They offer an alternative view of society, economy and polity that is grounded in protagonists’ experience and struggle. However, the ideational content of social movements is often obscured by a focus on particular, immediate goals; by their orientation to certain forms of action; and by the mediated, simplified nature of their communication. Continue reading Understanding Meaning in Movements: A Hermeneutic Approach to Frames and Ideologies
Article to be published in Information, Communication and Society.
Abstract:This article uses interviews with committed anti-war and peace activists to offer an overview of both the benefits and challenges that social movements derive from new communication technologies. It shows contemporary political activism to be intensely informational; dependent on the sensitive adoption of a wide range of communication technologies. A hyperlink analysis is then employed to map the UK anti-war movement as it appears online. Through comparing these two sets of data it becomes possible to contrast the online practices of the UK anti-war movement with its offline ‘reality’. When encountered away from the Web recent anti-war contention is grounded in national-level political realities and internally divided by its political diversity but to the extent that experience of the movement is mediated online, it routinely transcends national and political boundaries.
With Jenny Pickerill, published in Australian Journal of Political Science 43:1, pp. 59-78.
Abstract: The upsurge in activism opposing wars and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq appears to represent a significant process of transnational collective action. Using data collected through participant observation, interviews and website analysis this paper explores the role of the Internet in facilitating transnational activism between Australia, Britain and the United States. This research confirms Tarrow’s (2005a) assertion of ‘rooted cosmopolitanism’ – a primary commitment to locally contextualised action combined with a desire for transnational support. The Internet is used primarily for gathering news and for sharing symbolic expressions of solidarity. In Australia in particular, with fewer domestic anti-war resources online, international networking proves particularly useful. To an extent, online networks reach across both political diversity and geographical boundaries. However, online resources do not appear to enable the more personal connections required to build stable, working coalitions across borders.
An electronic preprint of the article is available for download here: Transnational Anti-war Activism Preprint. The published version is available from the Australian Journal of Political Science 43(1).